How Technology Has Changed the Handmade Oriental Rug Industry
Part One – The Design Process

Last week I lived up to my New Year’s resolution and began a long
delayed project of scanning decades’ worth of oriental rug import
and design documents that completely fill one large room of file
cabinets. My goal was to clear up space and have easier and more
permanent access to these materials. What I got was a walk down
memory lane and a reminder of how technology has dramatically
changed the way handmade oriental rugs get to market.

Imagine this. I wake up one morning with wonderful design ideas
for a new Oriental Rug collection. After several weeks of drawing
designs and painstakingly rendering them in color, I airmail
these designs to my overseas weavers to have 3’ X 5’ corner
samples made. (If you have visited my Doylestown, Pennsylvania
showroom you would have undoubtedly seen many of these lying around.)
After waiting usually three months, a package arrives with my rug
corner samples. Opening these packages is always exciting yet nerve
wrecking because the rug samples could be better than I had imagined
or a disaster. I am happy to say I have had many more positive than
negative package opening experiences. Even when a rug sample does
turn out well, I still repeat the sample making process two to six
more times to fine tune colors and pattern placement. A full scale
rug usually in a 6’ x 9’ size is woven and shipped to me for evaluation.
Only after my final approval does a rug design go into production,
sometimes taking over twelve months before receiving the rugs to sell
at market.

Fast forward a bit…THE FAX MACHINE is invented. This was big, I mean
really big. Now I could cut my rug design charts into carefully numbered
8×11 sheets and fax these rug maps overseas with about ten pages of color
note diagrams. Because my weavers and I work with the same sets of yarn
colors, we could change rug shades easily. Sample correction drawings
could also be faxed. The fax machine knocked off about ten weeks from
the design process.

Fast forward again, and the INTERNET becomes available to the public. 
Now, all of my rug designs are scanned in color and emailed in a matter
of seconds.  My hand drawn corner designs are easily copied and pasted
to scale. (If my rug design is asymmetrical, I still hand draw the entire
design.) Woven sample corners are photographed and emailed back to me. 
Needed sample corrections are instantaniously transmitted and entire
finished rugs are photographed overseas in close up detail for my approval.
What used to take sometimes over a year is done now in a matter of a
few months. Of course the actual hand weaving of the rugs still takes
the same amount of time it did centuries ago… and that is just fine by me.

Happy Rug Shopping!